Griffin hopes a dry Galway will yield glory
Prospects for decent ground during Galway's seven-day summer Festival have improved significantly at Ballybrit since their midweek downpours, with the going improving steadily and an upbeat forecast for the coming days into the bargain.
Reporting the course in good order as well as plenty of interest from English trainers, manager John Moloney indicated yesterday afternoon that the official description of conditions underfoot would "probably be yielding by tomorrow".
"We were soft early today but now it looks like it will be yielding to soft by this evening. The ground is improving every day since we had 25 millimetres of rain on Wednesday and it's expected we'll only have light summer showers in the next few days," said Moloney.
Britain's champion trainer Paul Nicholls, who took the Plate with the well-backed Oslot two years ago, will be saddling Five Dream in Wednesday's traditional highlight of the fixture as colleague Nigel Twiston-Davies seeks to get his name on the roll of honour with the much-improved Grand Slam Hero in the hands of English-based Galway native Paddy Brennan.
Another local rider, Graham Lee, has been snapped up by trainer Donald McCain for Thursday's Guinness Handicap Hurdle to ride ante-post favourite Overturn, after his stable jockey, Jason Maguire, sustained a broken ankle.
This proven trio would all be helped by a sound surface at Ballybrit according to their handlers, and that beckoning scenario, likewise, would be warmly welcomed by course specialist Dermot Weld and south Kilkenny's Eoin Griffin.
"We don't want a soft-ground Galway," was Weld's observation earlier this week, while Griffin has also been planning a concerted raid on the meeting with his predominately good-ground performers.
Rua Lass, which completed a bumper hat-trick almost a decade ago and returned to Ballybrit the following summer to claim the featured handicap hurdle on the Saturday, initially got Griffin off the mark there.
"Her very different full sister Orthez, which won a couple of hurdles plus a Listed chase at Limerick, and Patrizio, whose five hurdle wins on the trot included one in Galway, were also a big help towards getting us going," Griffin recalled.
"This year is probably the first time we've really geared up the horses for Galway and I could have as many as 10 going there, most of them with realistic chances on form, and some nice ground would be ideal.
"The Last Derby, which pleasantly surprised us when winning his prep race over hurdles in Cork, and Lucky Wish, third in the Guinness Hurdle a year ago, both run in the Plate. Barry Geraghty rides The Last Derby again and young Eddie O'Connell is claiming 5lbs off Lucky Wish.
"Kevkat goes back for a handicap hurdle next Monday and then possibly a Beginners' Chase on the Sunday.
"Admiral Barry could go well with Mikey Fogarty able to claim off a light enough weight in Monday's amateur handicap and I'm very excited about Drumfire. He goes for the maiden hurdle on Tuesday."
"Moi Desire, which has improved no end since a wind operation earlier in the year, and St Devote, the only one of mine that would prefer some ease, are in the novice hurdles with chances on the Wednesday and Thursday."